The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission has adapted to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic to find new ways of working, which will likely last into the future.
Speaking on a podcast as part of Law Week 2020, IBAC’s commissioner Robert Redlich, CEO Marlo Baragwanath, and director of legal Helen Fatouros discussed how Victoria’s corruption watchdog has been operating during the pandemic.
Baragwanath said the agency has “fairly seamlessly transitioned to working-from-home” arrangements, and expressed optimism that its success would “change the way that we all work” from now on.
“IBAC, like any other organisation, has staff that are crying out for flexible working arrangements, and before the pandemic I would’ve said we were not too bad at enabling some of those, but this has definitely recast the way you think about how you can work remotely and the ease with which that’s happened,” she said.
“And then if we can get technology solutions for some of our other work I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to really take that to the next level and be far more open in that sense of working in different ways.”
She argued the rest of the public service has likely been feeling the same way about continuing increased levels of flexible work in the future.
Baragwanath noted the organisation has often been “shrouded in mystery” for people outside of the public service, Victoria Police, and the local government sector.
She said COVID-19 has highlighted the benefits of holding meetings and other events online rather than in person, which could allow the agency to connect with people or groups that it has never been able to reach before, and “ramp up our prevention and education opportunities”.
Redlich said the “one casualty of the COVID environment has been the lost opportunity to conduct examinations” due to social distancing measures.
He argued IBAC’s resources have been limited and would likely remain limited in the near future, noting that the agency is only seven-and-a-half years old — considerably younger than other states’ anti-corruption bodies.
Despite the circumstances — including that “Victoria lags so far behind all the other states in terms of addressing corruption risks” — the commissioner said IBAC staff have remained productive and focused on their task of preventing corruption in the state.
He said that post-COVID, the organisation may be able to conduct more examinations than it previously could by utilising video and audio linkage “which will mean a great deal in terms of being able to expedite the process of individual investigations”. He described the opportunity as a “silver lining that comes out of the COVID environment”.